White House coy on reported Israeli request for bombs, planes

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

Call it a classic "non-denial denial."

The White House tap danced Thursday around questions about news reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Obama administration for massive "bunker-buster" bombs and long-range refueling planes that could play a role in a strike on Iran. Israeli media accounts said that Washington agreed in return for a pledge that any such attack would not happen in 2012.

"In the meetings the president had, there was no such agreement proposed or reached," spokesman Jay Carney said. "It's possible that there's a report out there in a news outlet that might not be accurate."

Or it's possible that Netanyahu's schedule in Washington was designed to allow just that kind of duck-and-dodge.

Consider Carney's wording.

"That was not a subject of discussion in the president's meetings," he said. No such deal was sought or occurred "in terms of the president's meetings. I'm the president's press secretary ... that's what I know about the meetings the president had."

"We have provided a lot of cooperation with the Israeli military. We have provided material to the Israeli military in the past, and I'm sure we will continue to do that as part of our cooperation with and partnership with the Israeli military," Carney said.

But as Yahoo News reported the day of Obama's talks with Netanyahu, the prime minister's schedule included "a potentially telling bit of logistics." After his midday talks at the White House, Netanyahu sat down separately at 3:30 p.m. EST with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who then crossed the street from the Blair House for visiting dignitaries to see Obama at the White House about an hour later.

It was not cloak-and-dagger operations; far from it. But that setup could make Carney's remarks strictly true without calling into question the Israeli report.

Asked about the possibility that Netanyahu could have made his request with other U.S. officials, Carney replied: "I would refer you to other officials."

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